diversity digest
Fall 00
Faculty Involvement
next story
previous story
previous issue
institution profiles
recommended resources
diversity web

Race, Gender and Faculty Work Lives: Data from the University of Michigan
Wallace Eddy, Editorial Intern, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives, AAC&U

Faculty are an essential educational resource at any institution of higher education. Wanting to know more about this key resource, The University of Michigan (U-M) engaged in a research study to assess what aspects of the faculty experience contributed to productivity and satisfaction. The research team, made up of a senior faculty member and several graduate students from the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (SCHPE) working with the director of the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), sought to answer the question: how does the univeristy help faculty succeed and how might the university enhance professional development, satisfaction, and retention?

The findings are based on the results of a survey mailed to faculty at the institution with questions on climate, organizational structure, policies, resources, workload, productivity, family work-life issues, career satisfaction, and retention. The report found that, "[I]n general,U-M faculty work hard, are very productive, are relatively satisfied and would choose to come to U-M again." But what did the study find out about the climate and experiences of women faculty and faculty of color?

The Status of Women Faculty

While the experience of women differed based on their rank, several findings applied to all women faculty members. All women reported working slightly more than their male colleagues. Women at all levels also said that resources and support services were not distributed evenly. Women reported less opportunity to interact and collaborate with colleagues. All of these differences speak to a less positive environment for women faculty, but of most concern was that women of all ranks were more likely to report experiencing discrimination or harassment.

The greatest gender disparities were among assistant professors. Female assistant professors reported spending higher percentages of their time on internal university service activities and were less likely to believe that their salaries were appropriate. They were more likely to believe that tenure decisions depended too heavily on specific content areas of research. Women assistant professors also reported receiving less respect, recognition, and value for their work. These women were more likely to have a spouse/partner who worked outside the home and less likely to have children living at home. The researchers noted that these last findings "suggest that women assistant professors were more likely than men either to have had children prior to beginning their academic careers or to have delayed child bearing and/or rearing until after they receive tenure or until they are well established in their careers."

The Experiences of Faculty of Color

The experiences of both male and female faculty of color varied less by rank. However, two findings were related to faculty of color at the assistant professor level--they were more likely to report that they would not choose to be faculty members at U-M again and reported being less satisfied in their careers. At all ranks, a larger proportion of faculty of color had mentors outside of U-M and, like the women in the study, reported working slightly more than the average number of hours. Women faculty of color rated the unit climate the lowest of all respondents and again, like women overall, faculty of color were "far more likely" to report experiencing discrimination or harassment.


It is important to note that many findings did not show differences by gender or race. An example is productivity: "When analyzed by gender, the data showed no significant differences, over a two-year period, in refereed journal publication rates between men and women in the social sciences and the biological/health sciences--the only two divisions where the number of respondents was large enough to make comparisons by gender."

The study is important because of its precise approach to assessing faculty work life and disaggregating data by gender and race. Knowing about the experience of faculty on campus is the first step in nurturing this most valuable of educational resources. Understanding how certain groups of faculty might feel marginalized is also important in building a diverse faculty well-positioned to contribute to the healthiest learning environment for all students. To see the entire study, go to http://www.umich.edu/~cew/research.html

back to top

The University of Michigan
The University of Michigan